|Siegelman's judge charged with wife-beating|
|Written by News Desk|
|Saturday, 16 August 2014 09:17|
Photo: U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller with battery early Aug. 10 following an altercation at the luxury Ritz-Carlton Hotel
By Andrew Kreig, Justice Integrity Project
Andrew Kreig is an investigative reporter, attorney, author, business strategist, radio host, and longtime non-profit executive based in Washington, DC. His most recent book is "Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters," the first book about the Obama administration's second term. The book grew out of his work leading the Justice Integrity Project, a non-partisan legal reform group that investigates official misconduct. In a diverse career, he has advocated for the powerful, and investigated Mafia chiefs, Karl Rove, and top Obama administration officials. The major "Who's Who" reference books have listed him since the mid-1990s. He holds law degrees from Yale and the University of Chicago, and a B.A. in history from Cornell. His experience includes work as law clerk to a federal judge, as an attorney at a national law firm, and as president/CEO of a worldwide high-tech trade association.
Atlanta police this weekend investigated alleged wife-beating by the Alabama judge who helped railroad into prison former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Police charged U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller with battery early Aug. 10 following an altercation late Saturday night at the luxury Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Police did not identify the victim aside from saying it was Fuller's wife. Police reported that she was injured but declined hospital treatment.
Fuller, 55, was chief judge for Alabama's federal middle district based in Montgomery from 2004 to 2011. He was scheduled for a court appearance Aug. 11 after spending more than a day in jail without bond. On Monday, a judge released him on a $5,000 bond for a court hearing on Aug. 22
A former Republican leader in Alabama, Fuller presided in 2006 over the federal corruption trial of Siegelman, the state's leading Democrat. Siegelman remains in prison on a six-year term that Fuller imposed with unusually harsh terms, initially including shackles, no appeal bond and solitary confinement out of state to keep Siegelman away from family and media inquiries.
The harsh sentence following many pro-prosecution rulings and courtroom irregularities by Fuller that have been approved by appellate judges and Justice Department officials.
Unprecedented protests by legal scholars, former prosecutors and outraged members of the public have failed to budge authorities either in terms of relief for Siegelman or investigation of his opponents like Fuller.
Fuller's judicial status and his powerful political, business and media support have protected him despite serious professional and personal scandals documented here at the Justice Integrity Project and elsewhere.
Fuller's business and professional ties to what President Eisenhower called "The Military Industrial Complex" have presented a secret and dangerous element of the power that wields, often in secret. Among our findings are that Fuller while a judge secretly controlled, unknown to litigants, up to 44% of the stock of a military contractor, Doss Aviation, Inc., which he formerly led as CEO.
The company operated globally, including at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery. In one of the many Kafka-like paramilitary dimensions to the Siegelman prosecution, the Air Force base secretly housed for years a special federal-state task force devoted to one purpose: finding enough evidence under the leadership of an Air Force Reserve colonel, Steven Feaga, to imprison Alabama's leading Democrat, whom Fuller allegedly "hated." Feaga held a joint appointment with the Justice Department and worked closely with the GOP-controlled Alabama attorney general's office, thereby uniting military and civilian powers in a frightening and secret combination.
The gist then and now is that defense attorneys, legal scholars and whistleblowers have provided compelling evidence that prosecutors framed Siegelman for political reasons. Fuller rubber-stamped and often augmented the travesty, as did higher courts and both the Bush and Obama Justice Departments.
The record illustrates that the Bush and Obama administrations march in unison when it comes to protecting Fuller and the tainted prosecution of Siegelman. The Obamas and the Bush families have interests that remain far closer on core issues than commonly perceived. The GOP has long complained that Obama was at best a naive law professor and community organizer, and at worst a radical leftist and would-be autocrat.
In fact, the Siegelman case helps expose that both Obama and Bush and their peers in both parties answer to similar puppet masters, who have scant interest in allowing another of their loyal servants, like Fuller, become embarrassed. It took a wife and local police for that.
Was Siegelman framed?
Those in a timid, politically oriented and financially impaired news media have repeatedly sugar-coated outrageous misconduct by federal prosecutors and in the courts in the Siegelman case, including documented threats of blackmail and evidence suppression.
Several public interest whistleblowers have stepped forward to describe -- at great peril to themselves -- how Siegelman was framed. But authorities in both the Bush and Obama administrations and in both GOP and Democratic controlled Congress have never agreed to their requests to be put under oath and allowed to testify publicly against Fuller and others.
Siegelman's frame-up began in the Bush-Rove White House, but has been continued by the Obama administration at the highest levels of the White House and Justice Department, which have received at least 150,000 phone calls, e-mails and other citizen complaints through the years but do nothing except insist that Fuller be vindicated and Siegelman serve his full sentence.
Obama Solicitor General Elena Kagan, specifically argued to the Supreme Court against Siegelman's request for a hearing, thus ensuring a unified Bush-Obama position and, perhaps not incidentally, showing that she was a team player who did not deserve all-out opposition by Republicans when Obama nominated her for the Supreme Court. Alabama's two senior Republican senators, Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, wield enormous influence in the nation and over the Obama administration.
The Justice Integrity Project cited Kagan's fight against Siegelman on behalf of the Justice Department as a reason to oppose her Supreme Court nomination -- even though from the outset her confirmation was a done deal with widespread institutional support. Kagan, a former Harvard University President and Goldman Sachs consultant, could not be trusted to defend the rights of ordinary Americans, the Siegelman case helps underscore, even though she has advocated for certain civil rights causes, such as women's and gay rights.
The most courageous accuser of Fuller has been Alabama attorney Dana Jill Simpson of the rural northern Alabama community of Rainesville. She quietly tried to warn Siegelman and his co-defendant, businessman Richard Scrushy, in early 2007 that Fuller secretly controlled a closely held defense contractor, Doss Aviation. This created a massive conflict of interest because defendants had no idea of the wealth that Bush administration was conferring on Fuller and his cronies via $300 million in no-bid contracts through Doss.
Also, Simpson alleged in sworn testimony to congressional staff in 2007, just after I met her, that she had been part of a well-connected group of Republicans told as early as 2002 that Republicans authorities would remove Siegelman from politics with the help of "Karl" and the justice system.
She further swore that she learned in 2005 even before Siegelman was indicted in his second case that the trial would be steered to Fuller because he "hated" Siegelman for helping expose as governor a financial scandal involving the judge, who was trying to arrange more than $300,000 in unmerited payments from Alabama's state pension fund for a Fuller crony.
Simpson's own odyssey is a compelling story
By her account: Simpson was reared in a well-connected Alabama political family close to late the Gov. George Wallace. She says she met as a teenager Karl Rove and members of the Bush family, and was a contemporary of Fuller's at the University of Alabama Law School, although she does not recall meeting him.
Later as a sole practitioner attorney with a diverse clientele including small town litigation and big time government contractors, she says, she paid her political dues as a volunteer helping fellow Republicans on in-depth political research. In one such instance, she says, she helped vet Fuller's acceptability for a federal judicial nomination early in the Bush administration.
Rove has said in several media interviews that he never met Simpson. Rove and other officials relevant to this tale have also denied misconduct. But none, aside from Rove in a carefully choreographed 2009 congressional inquiry, have been subjected to any known investigation that has put them under oath subject to cross-examination by a knowledgeable questioner.
The Obama White House, congress and the Bush administration agreed on special rules for questioning Rove after widespread allegations that he helped the Bush Justice Department organize nationwide unmerited political prosecutions of Democrats and other political targets.
The Justice Integrity Project reported that those rules made the House Judiciary Committee inquiry essentially a whitewash because they foreclosed specific inquiries on matters such as the Siegelman case and those like it around the nation.
CBS did a Siegelman story that omitted mention of Fuller's role. CBS, like most other major media, is heavily connected to the defense and intelligence establishment. CBS News President David Rhodes, for example, is the brother of President Obama's top strategist, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.
Fuller, Republicans, Democrats All Deny Irregularities and Wrongdoing
The Justice Integrity Project has repeatedly requested comment without success from Fuller, Rove and the Bob Riley family, and their attorneys. Fuller, however, did e-mail us once that he was foreclosed from comment because of his position as a federal judge.
In sum, Fuller has been able to protect his reputation for the most part despite extensive evidence of illegal, immoral, vindictive, greedy, and otherwise improper conduct involving many other cases besides Siegelman's, as described in my Huffington Post column, Alabama Decisions Illustrate Abuse of Judicial Power.
Furthermore, a purported tie of one Fuller's companies, Doss Aviation, to alleged 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta raises further questions about the judge and those who have protected him. No one is alleging that either Fuller or his company had any pre-knowledge or other involvement with 9/11. Nonetheless, the complete lack of mainstream media interest that a federal judge's company might have had a relationship, however brief and unwittingly with an Atta illustrates the superficial treatment that official commissions and a captive media often provide for the public.
I addressed similar issues in a recent column, 9/11 Commission's Forum Shows How DC 'Works,' reporting on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 Commission's superficial report and the major conflicts of interest by commission members. All benefit at least indirectly from close ties with the military and intelligence sectors. The judge fund led by commission member John F. Lehman purchased Doss Aviation, thereby ensuring Fuller's wealth in proceedings kept secret despite Alabama law.
The impressive array of services that Doss provides to the federal government includes training of U.S. Air Force and foreign pilots. Investigative reporter and former Naval intelligence officer Wayne Madsen is among those who have reported that Atta trained as a pilot briefly with Doss via a facility in Alabama. Atta's primary training ground was in Florida before the 9/11 attack, according to author Daniel Hopsicker and official sources.
Doss also refuels Air Force planes, including the Air Force One fleet that transports presidents and other dignitaries.
Additionally, Doss has sold uniforms to the federal military and such agencies as the Justice Department, thereby creating an especially direct conflict of interest that neither the courts nor the Justice Department wanted to address.
The situation is hopelessly complicated for those trying to understand it in terms of conventional wisdom about how the two parties compete against one another, with each advocating for rights under the law.
The diverse roles of super-lawyer Gregory Craig illustrate the complexities. Right now, the longtime Democrat Craig is representing pro bono the imprisoned Siegelman in a last-ditch appeal, whose oral argument before the 11th Circuit in Atlanta was recently postponed from July 28 to Oct. 13. Craig, a highly well-connected attorney, is the prisoner's last hope in the legal arena unless Obama intervenes.
Presidential intervention is highly unlikely, however, even though Craig was the first White House counsel in the Obama administration. At the Heritage Foundation, Craig has described the intense political pressures that any elected leader faces these days in showing mercy at either the state or federal level.
Largely unspoken additionally is that Craig and Obama are central players, of course, in the establishment that cannot tolerate Siegelman's freedom and questions that might be raised about his prosecution. It was Craig, for example, who negotiatde with his former partners at Skadden Arps the terms for Rove's whitewashed questioning before the House Judiciary Committee in July 2009. And it was Craig and Obama's close friends, Kagan and her boss Attorney Gen. Eric Holder, who thwarted Siegelman more directly.
Among their actions was opposing Siegelman's clearly merited requests to remove Fuller from the case, and also to recuse U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, and demand that the Justice Department produce paperwork claiming that she had voluntarily recused.
Instead, the Obama administration continued Canary in office until 2010 despite sworn evidence that she was helping mastermind Siegelman's frame-up in league with her husband, William Canary, who was campaign manager for Siegelman's Republican rival, Bob Riley.
The recusal of Fuller and Canary are central issues in this and other cases largely ignored by the legal and media establishment. The Obama Justice Department was able to win a rubber-stamp opinion of its conduct by a well-connected and wealthy federal judge, who essentially ruled that judges were entitled to preside on cases regardless of their stock holdings. That ruling applied only to Fuller and failed to address the extensive evidence of bias and corruption in the case.
"No one [in authority] has ever grasped the magnitude of the recusal issue and why it is the most important issue in this entire case," former Siegelman aide Chip Hill has written me. "Absent proof that the case was conducted without conflict of interest, every action taken in that conflicted environment should be invalidated. That would include the original indictments, the trial, conviction, etc."
A finding of failure to recuse by either Fuller or Canary, however, is an issue far too hot for leaders in either party or the organized watchdog institutions to address.
But domestic issues, rooted in passions, can threaten even the greatest of plans and cover-ups -- or at least provide a brief window into character issues, finances and hypocrisy.
Fuller's longtime first wife, Lisa Fuller, filed for divorce with allegations that the judge was abusing alcohol and drugs, and also conducting an affair with an unidentified married woman. The husband of a court clerk of Fuller's also filed for divorce from his wife while alleging in court papers adultery.
Fuller later married his former clerk and was able to keep his divorce papers secret despite Alabama law requiring open records.
The Justice Integrity Project protested the secrecy to Montgomery Circuit Judge Anita Kelley, who took the extraordinary step of protecting her fellow judge's privacy and ignoring our filings, which were co-signed by leaders of two other news organizations, longtime political writer Bob Martin of The Montgomery Independent and Roger Shuler of the Legal Schnauzer blog.
Longtime Harper's Magazine critic and law professor Scott Horton has written about a dozen columns attacking Fuller's honesty, and said that a judge hiding an affair with a court subordinate threatens the administration of justice.
Those dangers are particularly strong when critics of Fuller have identified so many specific improprieties by him and his staff in the Siegelman case alone, as documented in columns noted in the appendix below.
Shuler, based in Birmingham, published hundreds of blogs about irregularities in the Siegelman case and went on to write about other Deep South courtroom injustices, many involving Siegelman's successor as governor, two-term Republican Bob Riley (2003-2011).
Three of Shuler's news targets, including Riley's son Rob Riley, have sued Shuler for libel. The suits prompt a part-time state judge, Claud Neilson, to order Shuler's arrest and jailing for five months. Neilsen released Shuler, listed by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the only jailed journalist in the Western Hemisphere, after Shuler promised to spike his disputed columns alleging that Rob Riley had had an affair.
Except for the committee, national news organizations did little to support Shuler in the face of clear-cut violations of Supreme Court precedents on defamation, prior restraint and due process. I visited Shuler in March in the Birmingham jail to deliver the bad news: Shuler needed to give up his rights as a journalist because the journalism organizations to which I belonged, most notably the Society of Professional Journalists, had no stomach for fighting on behalf of a freelancer or even exposing First Amendment rights in such hostile terrain for civil rights as Alabama.
Identifying the root causes for the widespread suppression of justice in Siegelman's prosecution helped prompt my recent book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters.
My research showed that Siegelman, Alabama's most prominent Democrat, stood in the way of powerful Republican and financial interests, many connected to the same military and intelligence contractors who heavily influence the Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security, Congress, the courts, the CIA and the White House.
At stake was not simply Alabama's evolution to one-party rule after Siegelman's indictment and the negative news coverage his trials and conviction created.
Also, a madcap era of crony capitalism has been launched whereby favored gambling casinos and federal contractors have reaped special rewards while disfavored casino owners have been punished with huge albeit unsuccessful prosecutions.
Fuller sentenced Siegelman and co-defendant Richard Scrushy to seven-year terms in 2007 on multiple counts alleging corruption because Siegelman reappointed Scrushy to a state board after Scrushy donated to the Alabama Education Foundation, whose mission Siegelman supported, as evidenced by Siegelmaan's co-signature for the group's debt.
Siegelman was also convicted of obstruction of justice in backdating paperwork involved in receipt of a motorcycle from a lobbyist. Pursuit of that crime alone would hardly justify such a long-running investigation.
Thus, Siegelman, his colleagues and supporters were expendable via the court process and long-running smear campaigns.
Fuller has been well-connected to the political and financial leaders who sought Siegelman's imprisonment. They included, according to massive albeit disputed evidence: former White House advisor Karl Rove, Alabama Business Council CEO William Canary, Canary's wife U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, and Siegelman's Republican rival Bob Riley, and Riley's son, the lawyer and entrepreneur Rob Riley.
The irony, of course, is that a policeman gave Fuller more adverse publicity on a wife-beating charge than CBS 60 Minutes dared provide in 2008 even after it had the documentation in hand of the judge's financial and ethical corruption. CBS failed to report on the judge in its otherwise powerful expose on the Siegelman prosecution in 2008, Did Ex-Alabama Governor Get A Raw Deal? .
This report makes no assumptions about the battery charge, which may well be dismissed Aug. 11 or shortly thereafter. Dismissal in domestic relations cases often occurs, especially when a husband is extremely wealthy and powerful.
Fuller's alma mater, the University of Alabama School of Law invited him to deliver a lecture on ethics at its law school. Jill Simpson was furious, but the legal establishment Republican and Democrat alike are more than willing to close ranks behind a federal judge serving the interests of so many leaders.
Siegelman's son Joseph, a student at the school and a victim with the rest of his family, raised a tough question from the audience about whether Fuller's conduct through the years had been in keeping with the judge's speech advocating legal ethics.
The question is more apt than ever right now -- but just as likely to be ignored except for the scattered audiences that read the alternative media.
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